Museum head named Firefighter of the Year

Posted: October 12, 2012

HENRY J. "Harry" Magee is known as a family man who also is dedicated to his professional family. And that dedication has affected an entire community.

A fourth-generation firefighter approaching his 39th year with the Philadelphia Fire Department, Magee has been named the 2012 Firefighter of the Year for his commitment to preserving the department's rich history at the Fireman's Hall Museum, in Old City, where he will be honored Friday.

"We do the work we do because we love it," said Magee, 63. "To be honored and spoken of in that fashion is very humbling."

Situated in a restored firehouse, the museum opened in 1967. After 12 years of field service, Magee joined the fire-prevention division and became the museum curator, a job he has held for 27 years. The museum gets more than 25,000 visitors a year and, along with its history, aims to educate the public on fire safety.

"In many senses, he is the face of the Philadelphia Fire Department to the many that visit," said Charles "Chip" Lillie, former president of the Philadelphia Fire Department Historical Corp. and currently on its nomination committee.

Magee attributes the museum's development to volunteers, including his parents and children, who sifted through boxes of artifacts on the then-unoccupied top level, which now serves as a working archive.

"A lot of people don't recognize the great work he does over there, and I'm glad the museum has," said Deputy Fire Commissioner John Devlin, who has known Magee for 35 years. "It's really about saving lives."


Contact Andrew Eiser at 215-854-2513 or eisera@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @andrew_eiser.

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